KINGMAN - Many of the scams written about in the Miner come over the phone or the Internet. One popped up recently that used an older mode of communication: The mail.
Kingman resident Kathy Vickery didn't look at the postmark of the letter she got recently, but what was inside sure got her attention: A check for $1,952.50 and an invitation, purportedly from Walmart, to participate in a "secret shopper" program as a follow-up to a survey she'd taken.
Vickery said she regularly compliments good service and said she might have taken a survey, but she never indicated any interest in such a program.
"When I opened it and read the letter, I knew it wasn't something I had done," she said. So she looked at the envelope, expecting to see a postmark from Arkansas, where Walmart is headquartered.
The postmark said Madrid. As in Madrid, Spain.
"I thought, 'If it was from Walmart, why are they sending it from Madrid?' That didn't make any sense," she said.
So she reported it to the police, and to Walmart, and the post office (mail fraud) and the media.
"I didn't want it to happen to some other old person who is in desperate need for money and jumped at the chance," Vickery said. "I worry about older people. We have so many people out on the streets, even our veterans. I don't want what little bit they have taken away."
The check came with a letter that listed a user ID and a password to a website, which shall not be named.
The site itself is well-designed and looks legit. The user ID and password work, and then you get your first "secret shopper" assignment: Go to a Western Union office and wire money to Toledo, Spain.
If that doesn't set off alarm bells, the clumsy instructions should.
"This is to enhance us investigate money been sent from some WESTERN UNION outlets and never get to target destination," the site says. "You must keep your purpose confidential and do not let your attendant know that you are doing evaluation on them hence they will try to convince you not to do it."
The instructions also stress that it's very important to deposit the check and "complete the assignment" on the same day. Nope, nothing suspicious there!
Out of the $1,952.50 "sent" to the potential victim, the website asks for $980 to be wired, along with $68 for the "Money in Minutes" fee.
To the unsuspecting, it might sound like a great deal. A few minutes of effort, and you're left sitting pretty with a little over $900! At least, until the original check bounces, you owe your bank and someone in Europe is spending your money.
Toledo, Spain, is known as "the city of the three cultures" because Christians, Jews and Arabs lived there simultaneously for centuries. It looks like a beautiful place - so if you really, really must spend money there, do it while being a tourist and making good use of your own cash.